You may have seen the recent video that showed a man dressed as Aladdin riding a “magic carpet” around New York City.
The video, which has been viewed nearly 11 million times on YouTube since it came out the day before Halloween, was directed by Casey Neistat, a filmmaker, entrepreneur, and YouTube celebrity.
What the videos don’t show, though, is the hours that Neistat spent over the following week at his computer looking for stolen versions of the “Aladdin magic carpet prank” video.
Neistat told Tech Insider that he found more than 50 instances of people who had downloaded the video from YouTube and then reuploaded it to Facebook as if it were their own video.
Downloading someone else’s video and then reuploading it to Facebook as your own is called “freebooting.” The practice has come into focus this week because a new video from Kurzgesagt Projects, a Munich-based animation and design studio, about freebooting has gone viral.
Celebrities, radio stations, and companies freeboot videos because it increases their social following. (Tyrese Gibson, the model, actor, and singer, is a well-known practicioner of freebooting.)
Freebooting deprives video creators of revenue, not only because the YouTube ad that would have played on the video doesn’t play on the Facebook version, but also because they can’t account for the number of times the video has been viewed.
And, as Neistat told Tech Insider when we spoke to him about freebooting over the summer, “in the social space, your reach and your viewership is your value.”
Neistat said on Thursday that one of the issues with Facebook is that it essentially encourages people to freeboot. That’s because videos that are uploaded to Facebook’s player perform better on Facebook — they get more views, more shares, and are watched longer — than those that are embedded through other services like YouTube.
Neistat found that some of the freebooted Aladdin videos were from his fans — people who just wanted to share his video with their Facebook followers, but realised it wouldn’t get as much traction on Facebook if they posted the YouTube version of it.
Plus it’s unclear what Facebook’s policy is for users who post copyrighted video. YouTube, on the other hand, actually terminates the accounts of people who have three copyright violations. Facebook declined to comment for this story.
Neistat also said the process of finding a freebooted video on Facebook is nearly impossible because you can’t search for videos on the site. He actually asked his 260,000 Twitter followers to alert him if they found any freebooted videos.
“I feel like YouTube has my back,” Neistat told Tech Insider on Thursday. “Facebook does everything they can to encourage and support creating an environment that supports [freebooting].”
Earlier this year, Facebook said it would begin to beta test a tool that creators could use to find — and report — versions of their videos that had been uploaded to Facebook without their permission. But Neistat said that he hasn’t heard anything about a new tool, and finding and reporting freebooted videos is as difficult as it’s ever been.
“Facebook has a created a system where users are rewarded and encouraged to steal [intellectual property],” Neistat wrote in an email to Tech Insider. “There is no punishment, no consequences for stealing — even when caught and content is removed. Only the lasting reward of greater engagement on your FB page.”
“There’s no reason for anyone not to freeboot on Facebook,” he said.
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